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Ethics Concerns With AI in Law

AI is transforming many areas of information gathering. Long gone are the days of library stacks, microfiche and encyclopedias for research. We’ve long since moved on to online sources and late nights researching online. Now, supposedly, those days are moving on as well. With the endless possibilities of AI, we can simply input a topic and get an entire brief delivered to our screens in seconds. Simple, absolutely! Reliable, sometimes. Questionable, definitely. 

There are many ethical concerns with AI used in the legal field. Attorney’s owe an ethical responsibility to the court and their clients to be diligent in their integrity and competence. Attorney’s must possess the knowledge and skill necessary to handle their client's case effectively. An attorney cannot mislead the court with false statements of fact or law. Because of these responsibilities, ethical concerns can be raised when AI is used.

Flags Raised After Attorney Uses AI Generated Cases in Court

On June 22, 2023, U.S. District Judge P. Kevin Castel in Manhattan imposed sanctions on two New York attorneys and their law firm for submitting a brief that included six fictitious case citations generated by AI chatbot, ChatGPT. The false cases were not discovered until the attorney’s for the defense were unable to find information concerning the six cases and wrote to the judge concerning the issue. Both attorneys and their law firm were fined $5,000 in addition to the public embarrassment of the case and the damage to their reputation.

In a second case of AI generated fictitious cases, on January 30, 2024, another New York attorney, Jae Lee is facing possible discipline after citing a false case in a medical malpractice case with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Lee admitted that she’d encountered difficulty in finding a relevant case until she turned to ChatGPT for assistance. 

Both cases were dismissed by the courts.

Where Are We Seeing AI Used Right Now?

AI is being used in some way across most fields today, for example: 

  • Healthcare - AI is used in drug research, medical diagnosis and even robot-assisted surgery
  • Finance - AI is used to detect fraud, manage risk, and make investment decisions
  • Retail - AI is used to personalize the shopping experience, recommend products, manage inventory and chatbots answering customer queries are powered by AI
  • Transportation: Self-driving cars and autonomous drones rely on AI for navigation and decision-making and AI has been shown to improve traffic management

Ethical Concerns With Artificial Cases

Legal research often involves sensitive and confidential information about clients and cases. Training and tuning AI models in litigation raises concerns about privacy and security, as the AI model could potentially retain and misuse sensitive information shared in a confidential setting. Attorney’s have a responsibility to maintain accuracy in their legal research and if they use research based on AI and neglect their duty to document and verify the research, then they are failing to  maintain the ethical responsibility to which they are held.

Other AI Concerns 

AI algorithms are trained on data sets, and if those data sets are biased, the AI will reflect that bias. This can lead to discriminatory outcomes in legal decisions, such as sentencing or determining bail. For instance, an AI system used for risk assessment in criminal justice might be more likely to flag people of color for higher risk based on historical data that already contained racial bias.

Many AI systems are complex "black boxes" - their decision-making process is opaque and difficult to understand. This lack of transparency can make it hard to challenge AI-based decisions in court, and it also raises concerns about accountability. If an AI system makes a wrong decision, who is to blame - the programmer, the person who implemented it, or the AI itself?

Are There Laws or Regulations Against AI Use in Law?

The US doesn't have a single federal law on AI in law. Instead, different states are taking the lead, with some like California and Colorado at the forefront. These state laws might address things like requiring assessments of AI systems for potential bias or ensuring human oversight. 

Potential Ethical Uses of AI

AI in law has the potential to be a powerful tool  for good, promoting fairness and efficiency within the legal system. Here are some ethically sound ways AI can be used:

  • Access to justice - AI-powered chatbots and legal document automation tools can help empower individuals to handle simple legal matters or prepare for interactions with the legal system.
  • Compliance - AI can be used to help businesses comply with complex legal regulations. This can be accomplished by automating compliance tasks, identifying potential legal risks, and providing guidance on how to avoid legal issues.
  • Predictive Analytics - AI can analyze historical data to predict the outcome of legal cases. This can be helpful for lawyers in developing strategies, negotiating settlements, and advising clients on their options.
  • Efficiency - AI can automate many time-consuming legal tasks, such as document review, e-discovery, and contract analysis, allowing lawyers to focus on more complex legal issues and spend more time with clients.

The Future of Law and AI

The future of law and AI will likely see many changes as the two become integrated. There will likely be a significant change in the roles of attorneys. As AI takes on many of the hours spent on tedious research tasks, attorneys will be able to spend more time with clients, planning strategy and handling more complex legal matters.

There will likely be an increase in legal tech companies specializing in AI legal services. AI-powered chatbots and virtual assistants can provide basic legal information, guidance, and document automation tools. Data privacy services will likely become a very important area of legal tech.  

Talk to an Industry Leader Today

If you have concerns involving the ethics of AI in law, you should reach out to an industry leader like The Falcon Law Group today!

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